In this survey, we discuss the current literature on intellectual property from a perspective that takes into account two main features of the evolution of modern economies: (i) the increasing level of complexity associated with the production and design of goods, and (ii) the rapid development of the new technologies of information and communication. To this end, our survey focuses mainly on the recent literature dealing with the role of those technological changes on the optimal design of patents and copyrights. The revision suggests that the substantial changes, observed in most Western economies, tending to reinforce intellectual property rights, do not seem to be strongly justified, nor theoretically or empirically, on the grounds of welfare, creative, or innovative incentives. Instead, alternative mechanisms based on rent-seeking or lobbying activities by copyright or patent holders appear to provide a more plausible explanation.
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